CEDAR FALLS — Last year was kind of a surprise. This year, no way.
Top-ranked all season, Western Dubuque’s football team rocked, socked and turnovered its way back to the Class 3A state championship game Thursday night by taking apart No. 7 Lewis Central, 48-14, in a semifinal at the UNI-Dome.
Perhaps the Bobcats (12-0) should have saved a few of these points for next week. They get either No. 3 Solon (12-0) in next week’s title tilt.
“A win’s a win, being in the semifinals,” said Western Dubuque quarterback Calvin Harris. “Lewis Central is a really good football team. We came out tonight and played Bobcat football and fortunately came out on top.”
“To be honest, I’m not elated right now,” said WD Coach Justin Penner. “I just feel a sense of unfinished business. I would love an opportunity to finish the whole thing and celebrate afterward.”
WD had four touchdowns in the second quarter to build a 28-7 halftime lead. The Bobcats forced five Lewis Central turnovers in the game, including a pair of interceptions from Ben Bryant and two fumble recoveries by linebacker Carter Kluesner.
Western Dubuque lost to Cedar Rapids Xavier in last year’s final, by the way, 34-20.
“It took awhile there in the first half to figure it out offensively,” Penner said. “Our defense continued to force turnovers. We didn’t have to play from behind because of our defense.”
“We were out there doing our jobs, and one thing led to another,” Kluesner said. “We just kept finding the ball. Kept taking it back from them.”
Harris threw four touchdown passes, two to Will Burds. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 136 yards.
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Bryant had a TD run and catch, to go along with his pair of picks. His catch came on a fourth-and-goal play from the 4 in the final 30 seconds of the first half.
Penner eschewed kicking a short field goal and went for it. After timeouts from both teams, Harris rolled right.
Bryant was on his right hip at the snap, but sneaked his way through the line and was wide open, as Harris pulled up and threw back across the field. Beautiful play.
“I didn’t think we had enough points,” Penner said.
“That catch at the end of the first half definitely helped us with a huge momentum builder there,” Bryant said. “I didn’t know it was coming. But I thought it was a good call by Coach.”
Lewis Central (10-2) got a pair of touchdown runs from Bryson Bowman. He finished with 154 yards rushing on 21 carries.
The Titans had 271 as a team. Lewis Central lost to Xavier in last year’s semifinals but made it back despite graduating all-state quarterback Max Duggan.
That’s the same Max Duggan who is starring as a true freshman at TCU.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Penner said of the final margin of victory. “They were so big up front. That was a college offensive line.”
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